3 charged with scamming millions from local Navy sailors

SAN DIEGO — A grand jury indictment charging three San Diegans with conspiracy to commit fraud, grand theft, forgery and identity theft was unsealed Thursday, alleging the defendants defrauded more than 100 local Navy service members out of millions by selling the service members unnecessary life insurance policies.

Paul Flanagan, 54; Ranjit Kalsi, 52; and Gregory Martin II, 49, are accused of selling 4,700 life insurance policies and annuity contracts to service members who already had life insurance through the Navy, otherwise known as Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance.

Prosecutors allege the defendants — through their company, Go Navy Tax Service — misrepresented what services the company was providing when they sold policies to the service members. Bank accounts were opened in the service members’ names to make automatic payments toward the policies’ premiums, though the victims believed they were signing up for a retirement savings account or other services, rather than life insurance policies.

Flanagan, the company’s owner, pleaded not guilty to nearly 70 felony counts at the downtown San Diego courthouse Thursday afternoon. Kalsi and Martin, who allegedly did the bulk of the sales out of the company’s office — a trailer located near the San Diego Naval Base on 32nd Street — were arraigned Wednesday afternoon.

The defendants face more than 20 years in prison if convicted of all counts, according to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors allege the victims were defrauded out of around $4.8 million total.

The company’s website, http://www.gonavytaxservice.com, currently only provides a brief statement on its homepage, which reads, “Hello, we are currently unable to provide Tax Preparation Services this off-season. Sorry for the inconvenience. If you need anything else, please call us and leave a message. Someone will get back to you asap.”

Flanagan’s attorney, Earll Pott, said outside court Thursday that the allegations against his client were “mystifying,” as he alleged the service members should have been well aware through bank statements that their accounts were being accessed and why.

“If this was a fraud, it was a pretty short-lived fraud and it made no sense at all,” Pott said. “Within two months, these guys were going to get statements that told them exactly what the product was that they had, and they had a clawback provision where they could come back and complain, and say `well, I didn’t understand this’ or ‘I don’t want this,’ and the insurance company would have refunded the money.”

According to Pott, Flanagan was out of state during most of the time of the charged incidents and simply received and submitted the policy applications. But as to Kalsi and Martin, Pott said, “We don’t have any reason to believe that the two agents involved did anything inappropriate either.”

The attorney said, “The disturbing thing about this prosecution is the suggestion that the government’s going to come in and second-guess whether or not you need these particular financial vehicles. There’s nothing illegal about getting more insurance or having another investment vehicle that helps you feel more secure in their retirement.”

The investigation into the alleged fraud began last year, on the basis of complaints sent to the Attorney General’s office.

“The victims of this scam were young women and men serving our country who were essentially tricked into signing up for something they didn’t need and couldn’t afford.” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Enlisted sailors were not given a chance as to whether they wanted a supplemental life insurance policy. That decision was made for them through corrupt and fraudulent methods.”

The defendants are due back in court July 17 for a readiness conference.

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